How to Remove/Merge Duplicate Contacts from Your iPhone

How to Remove/Merge Duplicate Contacts from Your iPhone

Late last year when iOS 6 with Facebook integration was announced, I decided to try it out. Somewhere along the way, I lost track of what went wrong and my Contacts ended up being a mess. After some really crazy sync of Mail contacts, I ended up with a contact book filled with thousands of contacts.

Today, I decided to clean it up and I ended up with just about 200 contacts. (I removed all email contacts too and I’ll be merging them later).

The moral of the story is, if you have iCloud or a dollar to spend, you can definitely remove duplicate contacts from your iPhone Contacts. There are multiple ways to do this but I’ll outline a few ways to remove duplicate contacts on your iPhone. You can also extend these methods to merge contacts.

How to Remove or Merge Duplicate Contacts from Your iPhone

The Easy Methods First:

Clean-up Apps
There are quite a few apps that are aimed at finding, merging and deleting duplicate entries from your Contacts book on the iPhone. There’s Cleaup which functions in a streamlined way to remove duplicate contacts. You’ll need to do an in-app purchase to unlock bulk clean-ups but it’s worth the money if you’ve got a ton of duplicate entries you want to remove. Then there’s also Smart Merge which solves pretty much the same purpose but helps you merge duplicate contacts with varied details.

Address Book Cleanup

If you run an advanced Address Book software, there might be an option to find/merge duplicate entries. Even with Apple’s own Address Book, sometimes it takes multiple runs to clear out just a few duplicates. Still, worth it.

Then there’s the iCloud method which I want to elaborate on. It’s not the most efficient way to remove duplicates but it’s one of the most assured ways of making sure you clear out everything.

Before we begin, you’ll need a lot of patience to do this if you’ve got a ton of duplicate entries.

1. Set-up iCloud Contact Sync – iPhone

To begin with, setup iCloud if you’ve not yet done so.

  • Go to Settings
  • Tap on iCloud
  • Make sure the switch for Contacts is ON
  • Now, your iPhone contacts should start syncing to iCloud.

2. Make Sure Everything’s on iCloud Now – Mac/PC

  • Log into your Apple ID account at http://icloud.com
  • Click on Contacts and check to see if all the contacts are synced.
  • Scroll down to note the number of contacts.
  • Cross-check with your iPhone contacts (scroll-down in Contacts app)

3. Turn off iCloud Contact Sync – iPhone

Now, we’ve got contacts up on iCloud.

  • Go to Settings → iCloud
  • Turn OFF the Contacts switch
  • Tap on ‘Keep on My iPhone’ (or if you want to wipe out everything, a clean slate, tap Delete)

4. Login to iCloud and Remove Duplicates Manually – Mac/PC

From iCloud on your PC/Mac,

  • Log into your Apple ID account at http://icloud.com again
  • Click on Contacts
  • Export all the contacts as .vcf as a safety backup measure. Mostly, you won’t be using this.
  • Now start the cleaning process. Remove/merge duplicate entries.
  • Once done, export the whole thing again (for backup).

*Exporting: In the web interface of iCloud Contacts, you can click on the little cog icon on the bottom-left to get the export option.

5. Turn on iCloud Contact Sync – iPhone

Now, you can turn on iCloud sync on your iPhone. Effectively, all contacts from iCloud will be synced to iPhone and the duplicates should be gone by now.

If this doesn’t happen, you can remove all contacts from iPhone and then use the .vcf file to import contacts to your iPhone.

  • Brandon Ramirez

    Thanks for the post. Found an alternate path that I think is quicker and free. Used gmail to back up my contacts from my phone, and gmail has a merge duplicates feature (triggered when I tried importing contacts as a csv into google contacts). This seems to have done the trick.

    • miordu

      gmail the app, or gmail on the web?

  • Yoni

    Simpler is the best app for merging duplicate contacts:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/simpler-smart-contacts-manager/id665856919?mt=8

  • http://www.scrubly.com/ Bob Thordarson

    Hi Dhvanesh, great post. Another alternative is to use a duplicate removal tool we developed called Scrubly. It removes duplicate contacts from your Mac Address Book and also imports the latest contact information from your connections on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Once clean, you can sync Mac Contacts with iCloud which will push all updates to your iPhone.

    You can learn more here: http://www.scrubly.com.